Digital commerce panel talks about the human touch

The Packer's West Coast Produce Expo featured a pop-up learning session on digital commerce on May 10. ( Tom Karst )

PALM DESERT, Calif. — Adding the human touch to digital technology was one of the themes of a panel discussion at The Packer’s West Coast Produce Expo on May 10.

Moderated by Betsy Jibben, national reporter for the Farm Journal’s AgDay and U.S. Farm Report, the panel was sponsored by AgTools, iTrade and Growerstock.

Panelist Chance Kirk, CEO of Silver Canyon Sales and marketer for Tudor Ranch, said digital commerce platform iTrade is a great tool for managing purchase orders and other buying and selling details. Kirk said he hopes for more of a human element in digital commerce.

“I think really with this blockchain technology is how can we get more of the human element into it as we develop this technology,” he said. Explaining market volatility, a surge in supply or sudden weather changes to buyers is why marketers need more of a human touch in technology, he said. “How do I do that through technology, when it’s harder and harder to get people on the phone?” Kirk asked.

Rene Cardenas, head of business analysis with iTradeNetwork, Dublin, Calif., said technology can help with connections.

“I think part of the problem is just being able to capture (all that data), and be able to present that in a way that then can be used by the marketplace to make actionable decisions,” he said. That is where blockchain can help, he said.

“The data is limitless, really, what limits us is the creativity of questions and the commands,” he said. “Whether it is blockchain or a technology that simply captures and transmits the data that helps you make decisions, one way in which you can create connections by simply everybody having more information to work off of,” he said.

Tony Nuovo, co-founder and CEO of California-based Growerstock, said that company is starting to take advantage of new technologies like artificial intelligence and data learning. “I think that’s key to working through a digital platform,” he said.

Former Walmart buyer Yolanda Ramirez, now category director of Ag Tools, Irvine, Calif., said that buyers don’t necessarily have a lot of time for phone conversations.

“As a (former) buyer I can tell you that the most important thing that somebody can tell me is to give me information that’s going to help me make better decisions, whether it’s about weather or pricing or demand,” she said.  “Maybe we don’t spend all that time on the phone, but we’re actually strategizing to do something better and bigger,” she said. “I think the human touch is absolutely (part) of this technology, even though it’s not verbal communication.”